Young fathers below the age of 25 are disproportionately drawn from the most economically deprived and socially excluded communities in the UK.
The isolation that young fathers encounter as a result of gender-bias and ‘invisibility’ within statutory services makes this disadvantage worse.
Fathers who have children before the age of 25 are 20% more likely to be living in poverty aged 30 than fathers who had their children after the age of 25
In one Local Authority with approx. 1,500 young fathers, only 171 accessed Sure Start Children’s Centres (the main source of support for parents with children below the age of 5) in 2011/12, and most of these young dads only visited once
Children’s Centres are one of the few statutory services to record data on their contact with young fathers. Maternity services, education services, and criminal justice services do not regularly collect data on young fathers, making it difficult to understand the true needs of young dads.
Discovery (Phase 1, 2010-2011)
Media for Development conducted action research with over 100 young dads around the UK, using participatory film making to better understand what life is like for young dads. Over 60 films and two hours of footage was produced, receiving over 30,000 views on our Youtube channel. We created a project steering group of young dads to create a professional quality drama series based on their lives called ‘Me & My Dad‘ (starring a popular actor from Hollyoaks).
‘Young Dads TV’ got its name because it gave young dads a voice through film.
Working with the steering group we identified two problems facing young fathers, based on our action research:
1. Young dads are unaware of the statutory support available to them (most have never heard of a Sure Start Children’s Centre, for example) – they need an information service
2. Young dads feel that they have no influence over political decisions that affect their lives – they need advocacy.
Dads Map & the Council of Young Dads (Phase 2, 2011-2013)
Young Dads TV has become the UK’s information service for young fathers below the age of 25. We worked with our project steering group to create the digital Dads Map, which makes finding local parent support in your area as easy as typing your postcode and hitting ‘enter’. The Council of Young Dads provides advocacy for young fathers. It brings the authentic voice of young dads to their peers, statutory services, and policy makers and was recruited from the project steering group. Members are paid a Living Wage for their time (plus reimbursement of travel and childcare).
Young Dads TV’s website (including the Dads Map) has over 10,000 users, connecting them with parent support and free family activities in their local area. The site was awarded a distinction from the United Nations for helping to support the Millennium Development Goals, and won a Nominet Internet Award for empowering citizens.
The Council of Young Dads has influenced the government’s recommendations to statutory services on the needs of young fathers, and represented the views of young dads at events and in the media. Individually they have become passionate supporters of young fathers in their areas. This includes working with the Mayor’s Office in London and developing support groups for young dads in Brighton.
Young Dads TV has received a significant amount of positive media attention: nationally (including The Guardian, BBC Radio 4, and The Big Issue); locally; and in trade press.
An independent evaluation of Young Dads TV by the University of Wolverhampton found that Young Dads TV has helped young fathers in:
developing their identity as a father
making young dads more aware of their rights
increasing group support networks and resilience in the face of problems
“If you’re making films, sharing your knowledge and people are listening to you it makes you feel like a better dad because you’re giving advice and people are listening to it. YoungDads.TV has helped a lot."